READERS’ CORNER: Urgent action needed to save education from total collapse

Our education faces a myriad challenges. In the recent past, the sector has been in the news for all the wrong reasons ranging from the teachers’ strike, a wave of arson in schools and a widespread national examinations leakage.

So, where is our education sector headed? What is the government doing to make things right?

The recent leakage of national examinations has been a damning indictment on the larger education system and our national value system. It is a shame to the nation. The menace is so pervasive that scores of learners believe they cannot pass exams without cheating.

The question is, how do learners embrace good values when leaders practice dishonesty, deceit, corruption and theft of public resources?

The overriding consequence of exam cheating is the debilitating quality of our education. Learners use uncouth means to pass exams and secure places in universities to study courses that are not of their cognitive levels.

At university, they continue to cheat and graduate but with a paucity of knowledge. Ultimately, the country is faced with a dire mismatch between our educational output and the economic development needs.

It is imperative to note that this exam-cheating results from our emphasis on exam success as the yardstick for individual economic prosperity.

The question of industrial action in the education sector poses a great danger to the quality of our education. Learners lose precious time whenever the teachers and the government engage in incessant battles about salaries. The recent strike that paralysed learning in schools for five weeks will have a pernicious effect on the quality of education for some time. Teachers were compelled to go back to school heartbroken and dejected.

The effect of having a demoralised teacher in school is far-reaching.

The rate of truancy in schools should be a cause for worry. Only recently, the country was treated to heightened cases of indiscipline in schools. Our learners have lost their sense of discipline, hence resorting to violent ways of airing out their displeasure.

Amid this dire situation, teachers and school managers are rendered helpless, especially by the stringent but student-friendly discipline policies from the ministry of Education.

Consequently, our schools are busy nurturing a generation of juvenile delinquents and future leaders of questionable integrity.

The way the ministry of Education handles these challenges serves to compound the problem. A case in point is the way the government handled the recent teachers’ strike. It was clear that those in power were not keen on amicably solving the impasse. Instead they resorted to brinkmanship.

I was taken aback by the recent remarks by the President on the matter of teachers’ salaries. After the court ruling striking off the 50-60 per cent salary increment for teachers, the president invited teachers unions to State House and struck a conciliatory tone. This is what the country had been eagerly awaiting to hear when the stand-off was raging on. Instead he chose to take a hardline position.

Our education should be adequately shaped to meet our future development needs. That our country has edged towards knowledge economy is not in doubt. As currently constituted, our educational system cannot sufficiently play this role.

The writer is a teacher at Sakuri Girls’ secondary school in Kuria East.(ndiemo@yahoo.com)

Writing is inborn

JARED ANYIENI

Writing is truly a herculean task. It is energy sapping and can turn one into an introvert. I believe teachers have the wherewithal to nurture and hone the skills of young writers.

Many have argued here that writing is a gift. Kennedy Buhere, on November 6, 2015, wrote: “Creative writing or genius is not taught or made.

It is inborn. Education, and not necessarily study of education, is not the sine qua non of great novelists, poets and playwrights.” Zukiswa Wanner, on November 6, 2015, wrote: “The school attendance to learn writing would only result in their having the technical ability but would not miraculously give them the ability to tell a story.”

However, I believe that talent without proper guidance cannot yield any fruit. The role of a teacher is to guide, counsel and offer career guidance to students.

What Mr Buhere and Ms Wanner missed is that learners go to school as tabula rasa (a blank slate). From a tender age, a teacher plays a pivotal role in the future career development of a learner.

As language teachers, our role is even more gargantuan. However, as teachers play their role, the government should also play its part in tapping and nurturing gifted students.

We should stop believing that only those who score A grades should be admitted to higher institutions of learning. Those who demonstrate special talent, like writing, should also be considered. The grim reality is that teachers and lecturers no longer have time to nurture the grammar and creativity of their learners.

The writer teaches English and Literature at Baricho Boys’ High School

Why secondary school students are reluctant to become teachers

OUMAH OTIENOH

Classroom teachers have been hit hard in the recent past with the Teacher’s Service Commission still not softening on its firm stance to pay the September salaries.

The teachers yet again last week suffered another blow when the High Court ruled in the favour of the TSC in rejecting the 50 to 60 percent pay increase that the Industrial Court had awarded them.

This, coupled with a legion of other woes, have dented the image of the once noble teaching profession.

I was last week perturbed at my school when one student who had just sat her last KCSE paper audaciously told the other student who was applying for university placement to be cautious lest she falls a victim like one who had sat her exams in the previous year. The girl in question had been admitted for Bachelor of Education (Science) studies at one of our public universities.

At a chitchat with a few other girls, they bluntly told me that the study of education was not appealing to them.

So, why are students shunning the teaching profession?

I logged onto the Kenya Universities and Colleges Central Placement Services (KUCCPS) website: http://www.kuccps.ac.ke to find out which courses were most popular.

The most popular courses still remain medicine and surgery, pharmacy, engineering, law and commerce. All had a cut-off point of 43.0 and above in a cluster of four subjects. Education had a much lower cut-off point.

The University of Nairobi in 2013 had cut-off point for Bachelor of Education (science) of 44.272 and only a year later, the cutoff point for the same course dropped to a mere 33.903, a whopping point difference of 10.369.

This ominous situation in the faculty of Education was replicated in other universities. The University of Eldoret had a cut-off point of 28.561 for Education.

Students who may be admitted unwillingly to study Education are likely to opt for inter-faculty transfers to other purportedly ‘safer’ faculties like Business.

One of my former students was recently admitted for Bachelor of Education (Arts) at Moi University with forte in Kiswahili and Religious Studies but posted online that she was studying Oncology instead. The girl did not want to be identified with Bachelor of Education, though she was certainly studying it, and not Oncology.

Unless a raft of measures are enforced in the education sector, then the teaching profession will soon loose all its remaining glory.

We, teachers, are tasked with nurturing the young ones to blossom into holistic beings, but our well being is never a matter of concern to the government.

Dear teachers, as opined by one M. Scott Peak, our finest moments are most likely to occur when we are feeling deeply uncomfortable, unhappy, or unfulfilled. For it is only in such moments, propelled by our discomfort, that we are likely to step out of our ruts and start searching for different ways or truer answers.

The writer is a literary critic and teaches at Ng’iya Girls’ High School in Siaya County. He is a co-founder of the Eyeball Magazine

It’s time to examine quality of varsity studies

FRANKLIN MUKEMBU

Due to free basic education, demand for university places has increased, without a similar improvement in facilities. The result is that the available infrastructure has been overstretched, leading to poor quality graduates. Many learners are unable to fully acquire the right skills at universities.

The Commission for University Education has an uphill task when vetting the quality of university courses.The fact that some students can afford evening classes should not lead to compromising the quality of education.

While universities are free to chase the elusive funding by charging privately sponsored students, it should not be at the expense of quality.

The writer teachers Kiswahili and Geography at Munithu Day Secondary School in Meru County

Integrated syllabus has not been grasped well

Malowa Malowa

Students have just completed the 2015 KCSE English examinations. Sometime around March 2016, the results will be announced. Predictably, more than 70 per cent of the 500,000-plus candidates will score 25 per cent or less.

Then condemnations will begin before fading off, and this tragic cycle will be repeated in 2017.

What is the reason for this mass failure?

When the syllabus changed to Integrated English, teachers took it literally. They simply picked a few items from one genre in the English syllabus and taught it in the course of another. The teacher was never made to understand the heuristic application of that integration. He continued to teach like before. Examinations have adopted integration and the result is the disaster we witness every year.

The understanding would have been the applicability of textbook experience to our daily lives. The character in the set book was, therefore, never going to be merely for memorisation by learners.

Learners were meant to make those characters live among and interact with them on daily basis. Their language and behaviour was to be a source of inspiration or emulation or rejection. The syllabus had a clear mandate — make a Kenyan child be capable of effectively communicating and interacting, having practically learnt it in school.

Real life experiences then became the basis of this syllabus.

The teacher was to develop a framework where the learners are trained to practice good interpretational and communication skills – pronunciation, turn-taking, negotiation, telephone conversation, performance, writing, table manners, speech delivery, listening, interviews, giving oral reports, giving instructions, discussions, presentations of research work, debate, purposeful reading, functional skills, application and synthesis.

The shortfall was that the teacher was never trained on how. Not knowing that this was a chain product from the curriculum designers, the teacher started imagining that the learner failed because English language was combined with literature.

No! This syllabus tags the teacher with only one plea: Make the learner morally upright and appreciate the universal human values by the end of their four-year course.

The writer teaches at Kabarak. phelphonce@gmail.com

SOURCE: DAILY NATION